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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Wood-Sprite

By Roger Riordan (1848–1904)

[Born in Ireland, 1848. Died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 1904.]

HOW black, how bleak, how cold, how wild!

Squirrels and mice don’t know what’s fun;

They skulk below in fur three-piled,

Nor show their nose till all is done;

How blows the snow, how branches bow,

Cut to and fro, lash high and low!

Till crack! alack, they snap and go.

O night of ruin, night of woe!

To-morrow, to the wood-folks’ sorrow,

Many a fine tree, lying low

Will show with top-twigs in the snow.

But naught care I should pines fall, pat

I rise from ’neath them like the air;

Or, ’gainst the trunks blown, like a bat,

I cling and stay suspended there.

Or, should a spruce-bough scurry by,

With cones up-pointed, leaf-tufts trailed,

I board it, and away speed I,

The maddest voyage ever sailed.

I skip and skim, and bang and bump,

And bounce and jump, and thud and thump,

And chase ten devils round a stump;

Till rolled in snow, a frozen lump,

I tumble where some soul must stumble

Upon me—down he flounders plump

Like a lost soul at doomsday trump.

Last night, the deacon, hurrying past,

On good works bent, my form did find.

He picked me up and stood aghast,

But wrapped me from the bitter wind,

Then ran through banks and brakes and drifts,

And plunge he did, and slip, and slide,

And fall off rocks, and stick in rifts,

Before he reached his cold fire-side.

Then, while he plies the fire, and tries,

With puffing cheeks and smarting eyes,

His best to raise a flame—my cries

They drown the tempest, pierce the skies;

Hooting, calling, yelling, squalling,

Like everything that runs or flies,

To the good man’s wild surprise.

The Century Magazine. 1885.